The New York Yankees have already been the busiest team in baseball this offseason after missing the playoffs in 2013, but their work is far from done. The Yanks still have plenty of holes to fill, and they are taking measures to continue improving.
New York has signed catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, but it also lost superstar second baseman Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners. That created a void in the lineup that still needs to be addressed, along with the pitching issues that still haven't been corrected.
Here are a few of the biggest rumors surrounding the Bronx Bombers right now as they look to regain control of the AL East in 2014.
Brett Gardner for Brandon Phillips Rejected?
With Cano no longer in the fold, the Yankees have a significant void to fill at second base. New York did sign Kelly Johnson, but he seems like more of a platoon and utility player than a full-time answer at this point. Because of that, there has been plenty of speculation regarding the Yankees having interest in Cincinnati Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips. If the reports are to be believed, however, the Yanks don't want the three-time All-Star as much as most assumed.
Which player do the Yankees need most?
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, the Yankees rejected an offer from the Reds that would have sent Phillips to the Bronx in return for outfielder Brett Gardner. The speedy Gardner's name has been the subject of rumors lately too in the wake of New York signing both Ellsbury and Beltran. Gardner could still very well slot into left field for the Yanks this season if they decide to keep him, but with Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells also on the roster, there is definitely a surplus of outfielders.
The 30-year-old Gardner is a dynamic player who stole 96 bases between the 2010 and 2011 season, so he adds a different dimension to the lineup. Ellsbury brings the same things to the lineup as Gardner, plus a little bit more, though, which could make Gardner expendable.
Due to the fact that the 32-year-old Phillips still has four years and $50 million left on his deal, however, he may not be an ideal option for the Yanks. Even if New York doesn't have interest in Phillips, that doesn't necessarily mean that Gardner is destined to stay with the Yankees.
Thanks to the signings of McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran, it's possible that the Yankees can get by without replacing Cano. One area that must improve in order for New York to contend in 2014, though, is the starting rotation.
As of right now it seems like CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and David Phelps are battling for five spots. The lack of depth is obvious, and it needs to be addressed.
Sabathia regressed significantly last year, Kuroda faded down the stretch, Pineda hasn't pitched in the major leagues in two years and both Warren and Phelps are No. 5 guys at best. Nova is probably the guy who the Yankees are most comfortable with, but he still has to prove that he has officially turned the corner.
With that in mind, the Yanks must exhaust all options when it comes to acquiring another starter. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, New York is exploring the possibility of picking up Cleveland Indians' pitcher Justin Masterson as part of a three-team deal involving Gardner.
Nightengale didn't elaborate on who the potential third team might be, but this scenario would be great for New York. Masterson was essentially Cleveland's ace last year, as he recorded a 14-10 record with a 3.45 ERA.
With that in mind, the Tribe may not be so quick to deal him. He is arbitration eligible in 2014, though, and he becomes a free agent in 2015, so it's certainly possible that Cleveland will leap at the chance to get something for him rather than lose him for nothing down the line.
It's basically impossible for the Yankees to find a second baseman equivalent to Cano since that doesn't really exist, but there is still a solid option available in free agency. Omar Infante is coming off one of the best seasons of his career with the Detroit Tigers, and he could potentially be a great fit in New York. Infante isn't a flashy player, and he probably won't make the All-Star team either, but he is as steady as they come, and he is the type of player that every winning team has.
Infante was a forgotten man in Detroit's talent-laden lineup last season, but he managed to hit .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI. He also set career bests in slugging percentage (.450) and OPS (.795), and there is reason to believe that he could improve in the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
If the Yankees want him, though, they may have to up their offer. According to Anthony McCarron Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the Yanks are currently unwilling to sign Infante for four years.
Source says Yankees have no intention of giving Omar Infante 4-year deal. After losing out on Beltran, Royals may be favorites for Infante.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 11, 2013
New York's caution is understandable since Infante is already 31 years old.
The Yankees are no strangers to albatross contracts, as general manager Brian Cashman can attest to, with Alex Rodriguez being the best example. Infante would be a nice fit for the Yankees, however, because they can definitely use another right-handed hitter in the lineup. Infante would likely hit near the bottom of the order, and he also provides versatility in terms of playing second base, third base, shortstop and outfield. With that in mind, Cashman may ultimately decide to bite the bullet by offering a fourth year.
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